Digital Box Office Drilldown: How this week’s wide release is shaping up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google
Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success even before awareness turns into intent? We analyzed this weekend’s new movies across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google (the methodology behind the numbers is below) over the seven days leading up to their release, when marketing campaigns should be at their peak.
“I, Frankenstein” is the only wide release this weekend, but the digital data suggests it’ll be tough to displace “Ride Along” at No. 1. The marketing campaign has focued on activating fans of the graphic novel and the “Underworld” franchise (whose producers are at the helm here), as well as the Hispanic audience. But the stats show there is little interest outside this core genre audience.
The social numbers are on the lower end of the scale for a wide release, clocking in below the comparable, but much higher-budgeted, fantasy action film “47 Ronin,” which opened over Christmas with 284,000 Likes, 19 million YouTube views, 76,000 tweets and search volume of 150,000.
However, there is a small base of fans who will likely turn out to see the film: there are 35,000 Twitter followers on the official account, which has concentrated on image posts driving engagement with fans, but the low overall tweet count shows that there is not a great deal of chatter among a wider audience.
YouTube numbers have been helped by the 140,000 views on a motion comic produced to appeal to fans of the graphic novel, and the official website hosts several chapters of the motion comic, designed to appeal to the title’s core fan base.
Graphic novel lovers could also be drawn in by lead Aaron Eckhart, aka Two-Face Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight.” Overall though, engagement, measured by Facebook PTAT and YouTube Buzz, is not very strong.
On the plus side, search volume is stronger than the social stats, which is usually the case for films interesting older audiences, as they are more inclined to Google a film rather than discover it through social platforms. “I, Frankenstein’s” search metric of 83,900 is on par with the search volume of “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” which opened the same weekend last January with 87,000 searches. “Hunters” also drove a similar amount of trailer views and Twitter chatter, but was stronger on Facebook and took $19.7 million on release.
Grades for ‘I, Frankenstein’
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of www.moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 15 million Facebook fans and 7 million monthly unique users. Based on community data, Moviepilot helps studios to optimize their social media campaigns, identifying, analyzing and activating the right audiences. The company works with studios like Sony, Twentieth Century Fox and FilmDistrict.
While individually these metrics may not mean a lot, compared to one another and in context of competition and genre benchmarks, they give a good impression of the performance of a movie’s marketing campaign and the audience’s appetite for the movie. Needless to say, there are limitations to these data points and the causalities they explain, but as Hollywood just enters the era of Big Data, the potential insight offered by these numbers cannot be ignored.
Facebook fan (or like) numbers are a good indicator for fan awareness for a movie, even months before the release. For mainstream movies with younger target audiences, fan counts are particularly important. However, big fan numbers can be bought and movies with older target audiences typically have lower fan counts. Fan engagement measured by PTAT (People Talking About This) is a more precise but also a fickle indicator, heavily driven by content strategy and media spending. Both numbers are global and public facing numbers from the official Facebook fanpage.
YouTube trailer counts are important for measuring early awareness about a movie. We track all English language original video content about the movie on YouTube, down to videos with 100 views, whether they are officially published by a studio or published unofficially by fans. The Buzz ratio looks at the percentage of unique viewers on YouTube that have “liked” a video and given it a “thumbs up”. Movies with over 40 million views are usually mainstream and set to dominate the box office, while titles drawing 10 million to 20 million views indicate a more specific audience. If a movie does not have a solid number of trailer views on YouTube four weeks before its release, it is not promising news. But again, it is important to understand whether trailer views have been bought or grew organically. These numbers are global and public facing.
Twitter is a good real-time indicator of excitement and word of mouth, coming closer to release or following bigger PR stunts. Mainstream, comedy and horror titles all perform particularly strongly on Twitter around release. We count all tweets over the period of the last seven days before release (Friday through Thursday), that include the movie’s title plus a number of search words, e.g. “movie” OR a list of movie-specific hashtags. Some titles with common words or phrases like “HER” or “LABOR DAY” are very hard to track in a meaningful way on Twitter. The numbers are global, conducted using a Twitter API partner service.
Search is a solid indicator for intent moving towards release as people actively seek out titles that they are aware of and are thinking about seeing. Search is particularly significant for fan-driven franchises and family titles as parents look for information about films they may take their children to see. We look at the last seven days (Friday through Thursday) of global Wikipedia traffic as a conclusive proxy for Google Search volume. We have to consider that big simultaneous global releases tend to have higher search results compared to domestic releases.